NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
RESEARCH/RESOURCES MANAGEMENT REPORT SER- 75
Evaluating Communications with Visitors
to Great Smoky Mountains National Park
United States Department of the Interior
National Park Service
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EVALUATING COMMUNICATIONS WITH VISITORS
TO GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
by John D. Peine, Craig A. Walker, Paul H. Motts and William E. Hammitt
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE - Southeast Region
Research/Resources Management Report SER-75
Uplands Field Research Laboratory
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Route 2, Box 260
Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738
^Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee 37901
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
Peine, John D. , Craig A. Walker, Paul H. Motts and William E. Hammitt.
1984. Evaluating Communications with Visitors to Great Smoky
Mountains National Park. U. S. Department of the Interior,
National Park Service, Research/Resources Management Report
SER-75. 45 pp.
The study reported here spanned two years and was conducted at Great Smoky
Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina. First, managers and
personnel directly in contact with the public were interviewed concerning their
opinion on which priority messages should be conveyed and how effectively they
are conveyed. Park visitors, in turn, were either interviewed or unobtrusively
observed as to their information preferences and their awareness and utilization
of the following park media: park newspaper, short-range radio stations, and park
bulletin boards. Interviewing was conducted at Sugarlands Visitor Center for the
bulletin board, at the Noah "Bud" Ogle farm for the short-range radio stations,
and at the three major exit points from the park (Gatlinburg, Cherokee, and
Townsend) for the General Media questionnaire. The General Media questionnaire
covered all three media mentioned above.
For park managers, priority messages focused on resources protection and health
and safety. Visitor prioiities focused on how to enjoy the park. A literature
search concerning principles of media application was also conducted. Two other
elements of the study not reported here included use of the touch screen computer
in a visitor center and communications at the backcountry permit registration
The park newspaper is the primary vehicle available to managers to convey
detailed information to visitors. No other medium generated at the park level
has as great a potential to affect behavior patterns. It is the primary voice
of the Superintendent in the park. Only 39 percent of the visitors queried in
the General Media questionnaire were aware that a newspaper exists. Only 11 percent
of them used it. Even 40 percent of those who stopped at a visitor center where
is the paper is distributed were unaware of its existence. However, those who
stopped at a visitor center were more likely to be aware of the paper than those
who did not stop. Campers and those who stayed longer in the park were more likely
to be aware of the newspaper than were their counterparts. Campers were more likely
than noncampers to use the newspaper, be aware that an interpretive program schedule
is included in it, and to attend programs based on what they read. Only 3 percent
of the visitors surveyed attended an interpretive program after reading about it
in the paper, but 48 percent of those who read the paper and knew it contained
an interpretive progam attended one based on reading about it. Similarly, 42
percent of those who read the front page article did something based on what they
had read. These findings suggest that the paper can affect behavior, once read
by the visitor. It was concluded that the newspaper needed better marketing and
improved layout and design.
The radio system has the potential to reach a greater percentage of park
visitors than any other medium available to park management. The radio
provides a means to penetrate the sanctity of the visitor's private environment
where most of the park visit is likely to take place: inside the private
vehicle. Although .75 percent of the respondents indicated they were
aware of the radio stations, only 26 percent of them had listened to it.
Several groups were more likely to be aware of the radio stations than their
counterparts: those who stopped at visitor centers, stayed longer in the
park, and were campers. Stations at the two main entry points to the park
(Sugarlands and Oconaluftee) received the most use. Of those questioned, 72
percent were unaware there were different radio messages throughout the park.
Those who listened to the radio were more likely to realize there were different
messages than were nonlisteners. The visitors who wanted most to
hear interpretive messages from the radio accounted for 61 percent of those
questioned. Only 6 percent of the total surveyed decided to do something
based on a radio message heard, but this represented 23 percent of those who
had listened to a radio message. This is another indication that the radio
can affect behavior once it has gained the attention of the visitor.
The radio message was changed at one station in mid-summer to see if the
application of principles of radio advertising would increase retention of
the message and therefore have a greater influence on behavior. The
retention of the message was significantly greater, but the test for the
effect on behavior was inconclusive. It is suggested that the radio system
needs better marketing, with the messages shortened, simplified, and made
The often neglected bulletin board can be a powerful communications tool.
More visitors are likely to look at bulletin boards than to stop at a
visitor center or listen to a radio message. Locations are more widely
distributed throughout the park. Bulletin boards are usable 24 hours a
day; visitors can potentially communicate with each other via a message board.
Two-thirds of the visitors were aware that the park had bulletin boards
at various places. That represented more awareness than for the newspaper
(39 percent) but less than for the radio (75 percent). Campers, males, and
people stopping at the visitor centers were more likely to be aware of the
bulletin boards than their counterparts. First-time visitors were less
likely to be aware of the bulletin boards. People who were aware of the
bulletin boards stayed longer in the park. More people looked at the
bulletin boards (54 percent) than listened to the radio (26 percent) or read
the newspaper (11 percent). The most popular boards were those at Sugarlands
and Cades Cove. Campers and first-time visitors are more likely than their
counterparts to look at the bulletin boards. Bulletin board users stay
longer than nonusers.
Of the respondents who looked at park bulletin boards, 22 percent
indicated that they had used some of the information. This proportion of
use compares to 11 percent for the newspaper and 6 percent for the users of
the radio stations. The most frequently mentioned items were the schedule
of naturalist programs (27 percent), road maps and directions (14 percent),
and bear information (14 percent). Observation and interviews with users of
the boards clearly demonstrated that just posting something on the board has
little relationship to whether or not it has been effectively communicated.
Design effects were tested by changing the board layout in mid-summer.
The prechange board did not have any particular arrangement. There were no
flow patterns. Articles were helter-skelter and some were in disrepair. A
contrasting style of design and order was then applied. The change resulted
in people spending less time at the board but finding more new information
beyond that for which they were looking. The new design did not attract a
significantly greater number of people to the board. There was also no
difference in response concerning the need to return to the visitor center
after using the board. The communicative power of the cartoon to depict
complex topics was clearly demonstrated. In general, the major features of
the postchange board were much more likely to be retained than were the items
posted on the prechange board. It was concluded that the communications
potential of bulletin boards would be improved via better design techniques.
The Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association provided salary moneys
for Paul Motts and Craig Walker during the months of April through September of
1983. Without this support, the project which was done in conjunction with
resources of Uplands Field Research Laboratory would not have been possible. Mr.
Stanley Canter, Chief of the Division of Interpretation at Great Smoky Mountains
National Park, provided counsel throughout the project. Mark MacKenzie provided
invaluable assistance with computer analysis of data. Jan Quarles collected the
data for that portion of the project completed in 1982. Mike Provost assisted
in data collection for that portion completed in 1983.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY i
LIST OF TABLES v
LIST OF FIGURES v
THE IMPORTANCE OF EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS 1
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS 1
Overview of Messages 2
Managers' priorities 2
Visitor priorities 3
The Park Newspaper . . 3
Awareness by visitors 3
Use by visitors 7
The Park Radio 10
Subject content analysis 10
Awareness by visitors 10
Use by visitors 10
Treatment effects 13
Park Bulletin Board 17
Awareness by visitors 17
Use by visitors 17
Treatment effects 17
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND LITERATURE CITED 28
APPENDIX A. A GUIDE TO IMPROVING COMMUNICATIONS WITH PARK VISITORS .... 30
THE PARK NEWSPAPER 31
Role in communications 31
Principles of application 31
THE PARK RADIO 34
Role in communications 34
Principles of application 34
PARK BULLETIN BOARDS ....
Role in Communications
Principles of Application
LIST OF FIGURES
L Number of radio messages heard by those aware of more than
2 Standard and test road signs for Cherokee Orchard radio station . . 16
3 Bulletin board design prior to change 18
4 Bulletin board design after change 18
5 Time spent at bulletin boards and rates of glance/stop 22
6 Cartoon illustrating health and safety hints 24
A-l Official GRSM newspaper amid pile of tourist publications 33
A-2 Cartoon illustrating appropriate and inappropriate visitor
behavior toward bears 39
A-3 The color wheel 41
LIST OF TABLES
1 GRSM employee perception of message effectiveness 4
2 GRSM employee perception of media effectiveness 5
3 Types of information most important to the GRSM visitor 6
4 Relationship between visitors' stopping at a GRSM visitor
center and their awareness of the GRSM newspaper
5 Use of park newspaper by GRSM visitors 8
6 Newspaper articles read by GRSM visitors 9
7 Use of park radio stations by GRSM visitors 11
8 Most important radio message desired by GRSM visitors 12
9 Comparison of sample populations for the radio station experiment ... 14
10 Effects of radio station treatment in GRSM 15
11 Relationships between visitor characteristics and awareness
and use of bulletin boards 15
12 Comparison of sample population characteristics for the
bulletin board experiment 19
13 Comparison of bulletin board design effects 20
14 Information preferences for bulletin boards 21
15 Use of bulletin board articles before design change 25
16 Use of bulletin board articles after design change 26
A-l Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM) populations
sampled for communications study 33
A-2 Cartoon illustrating appropriate and inappropriate visitor
behavior towards bears 39
A-3 The Color Wheel . 41
THE IMPORTANCE OF EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS
Why should a national park manager be vitally interested in communications
with visitors? Because it is the primary means of managing visitor behavior short
of implementing use restrictions or altering the infrastructure of facilities
available. Effective communications between manager and visitor enhances every
phase of park operations, from maintenance and law enforcement to interpretation
and resources management. Extensive litter is not necessarily inevitable.
Increased law enforcement patrol is not the only effective response to vandalism.
Poor attendance at interpretive programs may not be due to lack of interest. The
public need not automatically resist efforts to control exotic animals. Effective
communications can be an alternative in addressing each of these park management
It is important for park management to develop an overall communications
strategy: understand the behavior of target audiences and decide how various media
can best contribute to the efficient conveyance of a clear set of priority
messages. This study focused on how to best use the variety of media commonly
employed to communicate with visitors in the national parks.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS
The study reported here was conducted at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
(GRSM) in Tennessee and North Carolina. Its overall goal was to determine the
extent to which visitors receive, retain, and use messages sent by park
management — in short, to evaluate the effectiveness of selected media. Study
topics were limited to those media applications generated at the park level.
Specific objectives were as follows:
1. Determine the message content most important to park managers, public contact
employees, and visitors.
2. Determine readability, subject content, visitor awareness, and use of the park
3. Determine subject content, visitor awareness, message retention, and visitor
use of the park radio messages.
4. Determine subject content, visitor awareness, message retention, and use of the
bulletin board at visitor centers.
The study spanned two years. In 1982, park managers and personnel directly in
contact with the public were interviewed concerning their opinions on the priority
of messages to be conveyed to visitors and how effectively they felt they are
conveyed. In 1983, park visitors were either interviewed or unobtrusively observed
as to their information preferences and their awareness and use of selected park
media. As depicted in Table A-l in the appendix, a total of eight survey
instruments was used. Table A-2 in the appendix gives the number of sampling
periods by date.
Data concerning park visitors were gathered in the summer months of 1983. Media
selected for study were the park newspaper, short range AM radio stations, and the
bulletin board outside Sugarlands Visitor Center. A General Media questionnaire
covering all media was administered at the three major exit points of the park —
Sugarlands, Oconaluftee, and Townsend. The short range radio station message on
the Cherokee Orchard Road in the park was surveyed onsite, as was the bulletin board
at Sugarlands Visitor Center. Users of the bulletin board were both interviewed
and/or unobtrusively observed. The radio message and bulletin board designs
were changed in mid-summer to test the effect of applying media-specific
principles to them.
For the General Media questionnaire, roadside interviews were conducted
with visitors exiting the park. Visitors were flagged down and interviewed in
their automobiles. Interviews took approximately 5 to 7 minutes. As soon as
one interview was completed, the next available car was flagged down and the
process repeated. Sampling was conducted in proportion to the frequency of
use of the three major exit points of GRSM. Proportioning was done according
to data reported in the 1975 ARMS survey (Amusement Recreation Marketing
Services 1975). Sampling periods were randomly assigned to days throughout
Visitors in the vicinity of Cherokee Orchard short-range radio station
were queried using the same methodology as was used for the General Media
questionnaire. These interviews generally took about 5 minutes or less to
Personal interviews and unobtrusive observation were both used to sample
users of the bulletin board outside Sugarlands Visitor Center. For
unobtrusive observation, an observer was stationed approximately 30 feet from
the bulletin board. This distance provided the opportunity to be able to see
the board well and yet remain unobtrusive. The first visitor to approach the
board at the start of the 3-hour observation period was observed until he/she
left the board. The next person to approach the board became the next subject
for observation, beginning the process again. Visitors leaving the bulletin
board on their way to the parking lot were approached by a researcher for the
personal interviews. The interviewer was stationed on the sidewalk leading to
the parking lot. Interviewing and observing took place simultaneously;
however, and interviewee may or may not have been observed and vice versa.
After the interview was completed, the next available subject was
approached to start the process again. Interviews took approximately
5 minutes to complete. Randomly assigned time periods of 3 hours in duration
were employed for both the interview and observations. Unlike the General
Media questionnaire, no proportioning was done, since sampling was not
affected by location. The nonresponse rate was negligible for all instruments
in the study.
A companion study of visitors to the backcountry of GRSM was also
conducted during the summer of 1983. Use patterns were recorded, along with
attitudes, concerning management policy, equipment carried, and awareness of
health hazards. This study, reported in a separate document, provides
valuable insight into the effectiveness of communication with backcountry
Overview of Messages
Managers' Priorities . Managers' perception of communication effectiveness
is important to assess. Where do employees see strengths and weaknesses? Do
perceptions vary much by job function? Table 1 displays the results of a 1982
employee survey measuring perceived effectiveness for specific subject areas.
The range of responses varied markedly. On the average, respondents considered
that only 4 of the 18 subjects listed were effectively communicated to park
visitors, with the responses ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree.
Unfortunately, air pollution, the most serious threat to the park, is perceived
to be the most poorly conveyed management issue. Opinion concerning the
effectiveness of communicating the hog management issue was mixed.
The data were also compiled for top managers versus employees dealing daily
with visitors. These results are displayed in the two right-hand columns of
Table 1. This dichotomy showed less favorable perception of effectiveness by
public contact employees concerning threats to the park.
Park employees were also asked their opinions concerning the effectiveness of
various media applied in the park. Results are displayed in Table 2. Most of the
media applications were considered to be effectively applied. Press releases,
meetings, and public involvement were the least supported.
Employees also indicated which message they felt was most important to convey
to the public. The majority of the responses related to either resource
protection or health and safety issues. Typical responses are as follows: "a
healthy respect for wildlife, nature, and historical structures" and "this park
is yours too; take care of it accordingly," and "convey a better understanding of
nature in its broadest forms." No one mentioned that the primary message should
be how to enjoy the park.
Visitor Priorities . Visitors exiting the park in 1983 were asked to indicate
the kind of information most important to them during their visit. It was assumed
that this perspective would also reflect their receptivity to the messages
conveyed. Responses are displayed in Table 3. People want to know what to do
in the park. General orientation and information on the pursuit of specific
activities account for 61 percent of the responses. These results are consistent
with the findings of a study done in Rocky Mountain National Park (Ormrod 1984).
The most popular response was: "How to see the park in a limited amount of time."
The category "park history" was mentioned more often than "schedule of nature
programs" or "natural history interpretation." Cultural history is perhaps more
important to visitors than natural history.
Less than one percent of park visitors expressed interest in management issues
as a priority point of information. This was on a par with knowing where the
public telephones were located. By contrast, park employees placed management
issues very high on their list of priority messages.
Visitors and managers have different perceptions of what messages are
important. Employees interacting daily with the public have different perspectives
on how well park messages are being received than does top management. The most
critical need is to relate park orientation information succinctly to first-time
visitors with limited time to visit the park.
The Park Newspaper
Awareness by Visitors . Possibly the most important finding of the study was
that only 39 percent of the park visitors were aware that the park newspaper exists
This situation greatly curtails the potential of the paper to influence visitor
behavior. A well designed newspaper must also be well marketed. GRSM is at a
distinct advantage since there is no fee collection at the points of entry, thus
no chance to physically thrust a copy into the visitors hands. The park's visitor
centers are the primary distribution points for the newspaper.
As depicted in Table 4, persons stopping at the visitor center are
significantly more likely to be aware of the newspaper. These data clearly point
out the limitations of present marketing strategy. On the other hand, 40 percent
of the visitor center patrons were unaware that the newspaper was available. It
seemed that just displaying them at the desk may have been too subtle a marketing
GRSM employee perception of message effectiveness.
'Great Smoky Mountains National Park does an effective job of telling
European Wild Boar
Balsam Wooly Aphid
"L That agree
by j o b!/
Top Mgmt Con
— Mean responses which were coded as follows:
— 1 = strongly disagree (SD)
2 = disagree (D)
3 = don't know (DK)
4 = agree (A)
5 = strongly agree (SA)
- Agree = Strongly agree + agree categories
Source: 1982 messages to convey by management questionnaire
Table 2. GRSM employee perception of media effectiveness.
The park communicates effectively through the following means
Park radio stations
Meetings with groups
Ff f pc t" i vptipc c
I f ect ive-
-•Mean of responses which were coded as follows:
— 1 - strongly disagree (SD)
2 = disagree (D)
3 = don't know (DK)
4 = agree (A)
5 = strongly agree (SA)
— Agree = Strongly agree + agree categories
Source: 1982 messages to convey by management questionnaire
Natural history interpretation
Schedule of nature programs
4. Personal Safety
Health and Safety
5. Specific park facilities
Table 3. Types of information most important to the GRSM visitor.
1. Things to do/general orientation
How to see park in limited time
Places to see
ree of Importance
-Percentages may not equal 100% due to rounding.
Source: 1983 General media survey
Campers were much more aware of the newspaper than noncampers. Similarly,
people spending more time in the park were much more likely to be aware of the
park newspaper. No significant relationship occurred between awareness of the
newspaper and age, sex, or number of visits to the park. It is surprising that
a greater number of visits does not result in greater awareness of the newspaper,
Table 4. Relationship between visitors' stopping at a GRSM visitor center and
their awareness of the GRSM newspaper.
Did you stop at a visitor center?
(number of respondents)
Are you aware of
the park ' s
N = 681 Chi-square = 117.380 DF = 1 Prob =0.001
Source: 1983 General Media questionnaire
Use by Visitors . A series of questions was directed to visitors via the General Media
questionnaire to ascertain their use of the park newspaper. Results are displayed
in Tables 5 and 6. The second column in Table 5 reveals that 11 percent of the
respondents had used the park newspaper. Only 3 percent of the respondents
attended an interpretive program based on the schedule in the paper. The lead
articles, which occupied 100 percent of the most valuable attention-getting
space in the paper, affected behavior in only 2 percent of those who responded
to the questionnaire.
On the other hand, the fourth column in Table 5 suggests that once you have
the public's attention, the paper can affect behavior. For instance, 48 percent
of the visitors who knew the paper contained an interpretive program schedule had
decided to attend a program based on what they had read. Similarly, 42 percent
of the people who read the front page article did something during their visit
based on what they had read. Management issues might be appropriate for the
paper, since 75 percent of the people who were aware of the paper indicated they
would probably use it after leaving the park.
Campers were more likely than noncampers to use the newspaper, be aware that
an interpretive schedule is included in it, and attend programs based on what they
read. Likewise, people spending more time in the park are much more likely to
use the paper and to attend interpretive programs after reading about them in the
paper. No significant relationships occurred between newspaper use and age, sex,
or number of visits to the park.
Visitors sampled via the General Media questionnaire were asked if they had
used the newspaper. The users were then asked which articles they had read.
Results of this question are displayed in Table 6. The distribution of articles
read was quite uniform for the small sample taken at the -beginning of the season,
Table 3. Use of park newspaper by GRSM visitors
n = 682
7o Positive response
Previous in relation to a
question previous question.!'
A. Are you aware of
B. Did you pick one
C Have you used it
D. Will you use it
after you leave
E. Did you know the 50
paper lists Nature
F. Did you attend a 24
based on newpaper?
G. Did you read the 38
H. Did you do something 16
based on the article?
— For example, of the 265 respondents aware of the park newspaper (question A),
165, or 62%, had picked one up (question B).
Source: 1983 General Media questionnaire
Table 6. Newspaper articles read by GRSM visitors
1983 Spring Edition:
Thru a camera lens
Radio Smokies 1610
Schedule of Interp.
Planting by the signs
Study in the Smokies
On a bike
Med. -Service and
Schedule of events
Don't pick blossoms
% of Users
n = 19 Page #
1983 Summer Edition:
Notice to visitors
On a bike
Sight seeing /Tour
Lost and found
% of Users
n = 58 Page ft
Source: 1983 General Media questionnaire
while the spring edition was still in use. Data for the summer edition show the
highest use made of the schedule of interpretive events. The front page articles
were the next most popular, probably due to their prominent position. Health and
safety articles got very little attention.
In comparing the summer newspaper content displayed in Table 6 with
information preferences expressed by managers and visitors as reported in the
previous section, several major omissions are evident. The newspaper did not
address the highest priority messages desired by management or visitors. Managers
keyed on the values of a wilderness park and how to minimize adverse impacts
during the visitor experience. Visitors wanted to know how to enjoy the park in
a limited amount of time or how to pursue specific activities. Camping and
fishing, the first and third most frequently mentioned activity information needs,
for instance, were not at all mentioned in the summer paper of 1983. These
subjects are addressed in separate brochures. The issue then become whether or
not to use space in the paper to alert visitors as to the availability of these
brochures. Again, what are the priority messages of managers?
The Park Radio
Subject Content Analysis . There are 14 active radio stations in the park,
each broadcasting a unique message. Subject categories of these messages are
displayed in Table A-3 in the appendix. The Cades Cove message, for instance,
focused primarily on interpretation, with 70 percent of the sentences of the
message devoted to it. By contrast, the station at the Gatlinburg entrance to the
park (Sugarlands) is more diverse. As displayed in Table A-3, the most prevalent
commonality among radio messages is their diversity in subject content. Most are
a potpourri of short statement on unrelated topics. The messages are quite long
and range from 232 to 501 words, an average of 401 words or twice what is
recommended for radio advertising. This pattern is understandable, considering
the messages are broadcast primarily (8 out of 14) in the vicinity of campgrounds.
The detailed campground information is provided while people slowly approach the
campground and are more likely to be looking for specific information. In these
locations, the bulletin boards may be quite sufficient for conveying the
information now broadcast on the radio. This would free the transmitters for
alternative use at sites of greater visitor traffic and interpretive potential.
Interpretation was the primary use of the radio message at Cades Cove, Cherokee
Orchard, Newfound Gap, and Clingmans Dome.
Awareness by Visitors . Visitors are aware of the radio stations. Over 75
percent so indicated in the General Media questionnaire. Several groups were
more likely to be aware of the radio stations than their counterparts: those that
stopped at visitor centers, stayed longer in the park, and were campers. No
significant correlation occurred between first-time visitation and awareness. On
the other hand, and this may be the second most important finding of the study,
only 27 percent of the visitors who knew about the radio stations were aware that
there were different radio messages around the park. Stated another way, 73
percent of those aware of the radio stations did not realize that there was more
than one message in the park.
Use by Visitors . A series of questions were asked to ascertain visitor use
of the radio messages. Results are shown in Tables 7 and 8. Only 26 percent
of the visitors had listened to the park radio during their visit. This compares
to over 78 percent of the visitors at Yellowstone National Park (Starobin 1973).
Why the dramatic difference? It is probably a combination of factors. For one
Table 7. Use of park radio stations by GRSM visitors,
n = 682
% of all those listening
to radio during visit
n = 178
1. Did you listen to the park
radio during your visit?
2. Where in the park was that?
Cades Cove 3
Cherokee Orchard 1
Clingmans Dome 1
Newfound Gap 2
3. Have you listened to the park 15
radio during previous visits?
4. Did you decide to do something 6
based on the radio messages? — '
"During this or previous visit
Source: 1983 General Media questionnaire
Table 8. Most important radio message desired by GRSM visitors.
What is the one main thing you would like to know from the radio message?
Natural history interpretation
Park history interpretation
Places to see
Health and safety
Schedule of daily events
% of Population
Source: 1983 General Media questionnaire
7. of those
2 3 4 5
Number of radio messages heard
Figure 1. Number of radio messages heard by those aware of more than one message.
Source: 1983 General Media questionnaire
thing, GRSM has a much higher percentage of repeat visitors, who are far less
likely to use the radio. First-time visitors were more likely than repeat
visitors to use the radio system (48 to 34 percent). Just as important is the
fact that 72 percent of the visitors who were aware of the radio system were
unaware that there are different radio messages around the park. Also, the radio
system in Yellowstone is a more integral part of the interpretive strategy than
at GRSM (Chief of Visitor Services Canter, personal communication, 1983).
Visitors at Yellowstone are likely to be more attuned to turning the radio on.
Not surprisingly, stations at the two main entrances, Oconaluftee and
Sugarlands, received the greatest use (Table 7 ). Sugarlands is the most
strategic station in the entire park for intercepting first-time visitors, since
57 percent of all visitors stop there (ARMS 1975). Figure 1 shows the number of
radio messages heard by visitors aware that there were more than one. Seventy
percent had heard only one or two. Very few listened to many messages. Radio
listeners are more likely to realize there are different radio messages than are
nonlisteners. As shown in Table 8 » 61 percent of the visitors wanted most to
hear interpretive messages from the radio. This supports the contention that the
radio system should be used more for interpretive activities. Only 6 percent of
the park visitors decided to do something based on the radio messages heard. On
the other hand, one in four of those who had listened to a radio station had
decided to do something based on what they heard. No significant correlations
were detected between use of the radio and age, sex, campers versus noncampers,
and length of stay.
Treatment Effects . To test the effects of applying the principles of radio
advertising (see appendix) to park radio messages, a test was devised for the
Cherokee Orchard station. The transmitter for this station is housed at the
Uplands Field Research Laboratory. Before a new message and road sign were
installed, 227 interviews were conducted; after installation, 211 interviews were
conducted. The standard and test road signs are displayed in Figure 2. To
examine population characteristics, 12 questions from the exit interview were
asked (Table 9 )• Except for having a higher percentage of visitors on the
Cherokee Orchard Road aware of the radio stations in the park, most
characteristics measured, such as age, sex, days in the park, number of visits,
stops at visitor centers, and camping were somewhat similar. The most striking
difference was the higher interest expressed by Cherokee Orchard respondents for
radio messages pertaining to places to see.
The effectiveness of the sign and message were measured by three questions,
responses to which are displayed in Table 10. Results were somewhat mixed.
There was no significant difference between pre- and post-treatment concerning
whether or not people turned on their radio or chose to do something based on
what they had heard. Four confounding factors may have influenced results. One
was that the treatment road sign was poorly designed so that it was not easily
readable by motorists driving the speed limit. Any improvement that the sign
message may have had was probably outweighed by its design. Also, circumstances
required that people be pulled off the road immediately after they had heard the
message rather than giving them time to mull over the information as to whether
to take action. Third, although there was a statistically significant larger
number of first-time visitors in the post- versus the pre-treatment category
(33 percent versus 21 percent, respectively), the vast majority of visitors in
both categories were repeat visitors. They therefore probably had an itinerary
already in mind. Lastly, a statistically significant fewer post- versus pre-
treatment respondents were aware that a park radio system existed. As a result,
Table 9. Comparison of sample population characteristics for the radio
General Media Radio Message
Survey Pre-treatment Post-treatment
Population characteristics n = 682 n = 227 n = 211
Average number of days in park
7o that camped in park
7» on first visit
Average number times visiting
park in last year
Average number times visiting 28.8 33 23
park in last 5 years
% aware of park's radio station 75 90 83
7, aware of different messages 28 37 42
Average number of messages .96 .27 .30
7. males 54 56
Average age 40 38
7 that stopped at visitor center 47 52
Main radio message you prefer
7o Natural history interpretation 39 11 12
7, Park history 22 9 7
7 Places to see 9 45 52
7 Health and safety 743
7o Weather 7 1 1
7, Camping information 6 7 3
7o Hiking information 4 10 9
7> Lodging information 3
7. Schedule of events 3 11 n
Sources: 1983 General Media
Table 10. Effects of radio station treatment in GRSM,
Did you listen to the park radio
as you were driving up this
Did you decide to do something
based on the radio message?
% Responding yes to question
3. What kinds of things do you
remember from the radio
message you heard as you
were driving up the road?
Trailhead & Hiking info 53
Pioneer lifestyle & hardships 42
Pioneer relationship to land 19
Motor Nature Trail 16
Road characteristics 11
- % respondents _'
Grotto Falls 82
Bud Ogle Farm 77
Motor Nature Trail 48
Average number of items =
recalled per respondent
Average number of items
recalled per respondent
— Total does not equal 1007o due to possibility of multiple responses per respondent
Source: 1983 Radio Message (before and after treatment) questionnaire
Table 11.. Relationships between visitor characteristics and awareness and use
of bulletin boards.
Awareness versus camping
Awareness versus sex
Awareness versus stopping at visitor centers
Awareness versus first-time visitor
Awareness versus length of stay (t-test)
Chi Square Probabi lity
Use versus camping
Use versus first-time visitors
Use versus length of stay
Use versus stopped at visitor centers
Source: 1983 General Media questionnaire
Figure 2. Standard and test road signs for Cherokee Orchard radio station.
the test of the alternative signage was inconclusive.
Respondents did show greater retention of the post-treatment message. More
items per respondent were recalled, even though the message was quite a bit
shorter (272 words versus 387 words). Also, key points of interests emphasized
in the message were retained by more than three-fourths of the respondents.
Information retention increased from an average of 1.87 things remembered from the
pre-treatment message to an average of 2.45 things remembered from the post-
treatment message. Retention of reference to the Motor Nature Trail increased
threefold. One out of five post-treatment respondents recalled reference to using
Park Bulletin Boards
Awareness by Visitors. Two-thirds of the visitors interviewed in the General
Media questionnaire were aware that the park has bulletin boards at various places.
That represents more awareness than for the newspaper (39 percent) but less than
for the radio stations (75 percent). Statistically significant relationships
concerning bulletin board awareness are shown in Table 11. Several groups
interviewed in the General Media questionnaire were more likely to be aware of
bulletin boards than their counterparts: campers, males, and visitors stopping at
the visitor centers. People aware of the bulletin boards stayed in the park
Use by Visitors. More respondents in the General Media questionnaire looked
at bulletin boards (54 percent) than listed to the radio (38 percent) or read
the newspaper (11 percent). Locations of bulletin boards used are shown in
Table A-4 in the appendix. The most popular locations were at Sugarlands Visitor
Center and Cades Cove. Statistically significant relationships concerning
bulletin board awareness and use are displayed in Table 11. Campers and first-
time visitors were more likely than their counterparts to look at the bulletin
boards. Bulletin board users stayed longer in the park than nonusers.
Of the respondents in the General Media questionnaire that looked at park
bulletin boards, 22 percent indicated that they had used some of the information.
The most frequently mentioned items were the schedule of naturalist programs
(27 percent), road maps and directions (14 percent), and bear information (14
percent). This degree of information use compares to 11 percent for the
newspaper and 6 percent for the users of the radio stations. Users of the
bulletin board at Sugarlands were observed as part of a design treatment
experiment described in the next section. Further insight into visitor use
bulletin boards is offered there.
Treatment Effects . In order to test the effects of design change, the
bulletin board at Sugarlands Visitor Center was changed at mid-summer. The two
design strategies are pictured in Figures 3 and 4. The pre-change board did not
have any particular arrangement. There was no flow pattern. Articles of all shapes
and sizes were posted over the entire surface, including the corners and accross
the bottom. Headlines were helter-skelter; some were in disrepair. Several
articles were badly bleached out by the sun. Maps were scattered, with a variety
of scales and levels of sophistication. As shown in Figure 3, there was a
tremendous quantity of information displayed.
This circumstance provided a good opportunity to take an extremely opposite
approach to design. Upon consulting with the interpretive staff, it was
determined that the large number of information items must be retained. There
was no particular sense of priority. An informal balance design described by
Figure 3 . Bulletin board design prior to change.
Figure 4. Bulletin board design after change
Randall and Haines (1961) was chosen. Emphasis was placed on area maps and
things to do, the primary user preferences as displayed in Table 14. These were
situated at eye level. A portion was also devoted to providing guidance in how
to select literature in the visitor center which matched particular interests and
circumstances. Another primary feature was the use of a cartoon to explain the
"why" for the most publicized "don't" among park messages. See Figure A-l.
A combination of personal interviews and unobtrusive observation was used to
evaluate effects of the bulletin board design change. As in the radio treatment
questionnaire, respondents at the bulletin board were asked several questions
that were also on the exit survey questionnaire. Results of the sample
population comparisons are shown in Table 12. The primary difference between
the bulletin board respondents and the total population of visitors is that they
are more likely to be first-time visitors. This is as expected, since first-time
visitors are more likely to stop at the visitor center.
Statistically significant differences in the pre- and post-survey populations
include more males and first-time visitors in the pre-treatment population and a
younger than average age in the post-treatment population. A couple of things
were added to the bulletin board that were designed to attract children. This
might have contributed to the age differences.
A comparison of responses to questions used to evaluate the effectiveness of
the design are portrayed in Table 13. The only statistically significant
population differences were with the percent of respondents finding new
information for which they were not looking. The new design apparently fostered
greater opportunity to learn new information.
Table 12- Comparisons of sample population characteristics for the bulletin
Bulletin board questionnaire
Sugarlands Visitor Center
Average number days in park 2.8
% that camped in park 15
% on first visit 27
Average number times visiting 6.6
park in last year
Average number times visiting
park in last 5 years
-'Significantly different at p < 0.05
Sources: 1983 General Media questionnaire; 1983 Sugarlands bulletin board (before
and after treatment questionnaires)
Table 13. Comparison of bulletin board design effects.
Sugarlands Bulletin Board Survey
Question Pre-treatment Post-treatment
Were you seeking specific information? —'
Did you find information sought? -
Did you find new information? —
When will you use the information? -
Now 50 51
Later 33 34
Now and later 8 3
Never 5 4
Don't know 11 11
Why attracted to Bulletin Board -
Design layout 7 9
Desire for NPS information 34 37
Location 15 9
Curiosity 43 44
Did you need to go to NPS desk -
for more information? 39 38
— % of respondents answering yes to the question.
- Total does not equal 100% due to rounding.
Source: 1983 Sugarlands bulletin board before and after treatment) questionnaire
Table 14. Information preferences for bulletin boards.
Information type Pre-treatment Post-treatment
—— N=199 N=220
Map 26 32
Hiking 4 10
Camping 5 5
Schedule of events 4 4
Fishing 1 I
Weather 1 2
Lodging 1 1
Health and safety 2 1
Wildlife 6 5
Auto touring 1
Places to see 7 9
No opinion 29 16
Other 14 15
— Total does not equal 100% due to rounding.
Source: Sugarlands bulletin board (before and after treatment) questionnaires
On the other hand, the new design did not attract a significantly greater
number of people due to design layout. There was also no difference in response
concerning the need to return to the visitor center after looking at the
bulletin board. This was unexpected since the new design featured guidance in
using literature available at the center.
Users of the visitor center bulletin board were also asked to indicate the
item they would most like to see on it. Results are displayed in Table 14 .
The number one preference is for maps and directions; second is for information
on things to do. This is consistent with response to the general question in
the exit interview concerning information most desired. (See Table 3 .)
Users of the bulletin board also were observed unobtrusively in order to
record their habits concerning use of the board. The amounts of time spent
at the board are displayed in Figure 5 . People spent more time at the pre-
change board and were more likely to stop as opposed to glance at it. These
relationships are statistically significant. A statistically significant
larger number of males than females used the pre-change board. The reverse
was true for the post-change board. This relationship was also statistically
Why was more time spent prior to change? The pre-change board was a
complex hodgepodge of material with several brochures displaying
considerable text. This design invited exploration for interesting
Rates of glance/stop
7„ of Population
V7\ pr» treotment
Figure 5. Time spent at bulletin boards and rates of glance/stop.
Source: 1983 Bulletin Board Unobtrusive Observation (before and after treatment)
information. Much more time was required to comprehend it as opposed to the
post-change board whose deliberately opposite design style was meant to help the
reader quickly locate items of interest. These design differences presumably
contributed to the time spent differential.
Significant insight is gained from the unobtrusively gathered data portrayed
in Tables 15 and 16. The percentage of users reading and scanning each article
is presented. As one would expect, the park map was the most popular item in
both the pre- and post-change boards. The pre-change board had a prominent
article on the potential for car break-ins and how to protect against them. This
was the next most often read article by visitors. The visitors' vested interest
in this topic was displayed by the behavior recorded. The cartoons incorporated
in the post-treatment board proved popular. The cartoons (Figures 6 and A-l)
depict proper and improper behavior during bear encounters, and hints on health
and safety. Both sets of cartoons also depicted the potential adverse effects if
the recommended behavior was not followed. The "why" behind the "don't" was
explained. The cartoons were used as vehicles to portray complex issues, and
they drew attention.
By contrast, it is interesting to make note of what wasn't read. Just
because items are posted on a bulletin board doesn't necessarily mean that any
communication will take place. For example, an item was included on the
pretreatment board concerning the "quiet walkways" in the park. These short loop
trails were provided just a few years ago to entice people out of their cars at
less popular points in the park. Less than 1 percent of the board users took
time to read the quiet walkways article. No reference was made to these
facilities in the newspaper. As a result, the only publicity that this new and
innovative program gets is the "Quiet Walkway" signs along the park roads.
Articles on hypothermia and giardia (a human disease carried by water) had
similar lack of attention, along with all other health and safety messages
(excluding the notice on bears).
To gauge the recollection of messages read and scanned, bulletin board users
were asked which articles they remembered from the board. Results are portrayed
in the right-hand column in Tables 15 and 16 • These data reveal the value of
attention-getting techniques. On the pre-treatment board, 8.5 percent of the
respondents recalled seeing the cigarette butts on the board. The article
concerning vehicle break-ins with the large heading entitled "Beware" was
remembered more frequently, as was the flyer on bears in the park. On the
post-treatment board, the recall of the cartoons was number one. Over one half
of the people looking at the board recalled seeing them. This again illustrates
the value of this technique for communicating. Almost half of the post-
treatment respondents also recalled seeing items concerning park features and
activities. These items occupied the prime eye-level viewing space on the
boards. In general, the major features of the post-treatment board were much
more likely to be recalled than for those items posted on the pre-treatment
It may be concluded that the design change did affect behavior. People
spent less time, found more new things they were looking for, and had a
generally higher recall level.
Figure 6. Cartoon illustrating health and safety hints
Table 15. Use of bulletin board articles before design change
Beware of theft
Plant and animal
Self-guiding trails 7.7
Self-guiding trail art. 5.1
15<£ maps 4.2
Camping 3 . 8
Hypothermia 3 . 1
Gatlinburg Bypass 2.6
Gatlinburg Med. Cntr. 2.3
Quiet walkways 2.0
Blue Ridge Parkway map 2.0
Cigarette butts 1.9
Wilderness creed .9
Horseback riding .8
Blue Ridge Pkway broch. .8
Mountain photo .7
Peanuts cartoon .5
Bird photo .4
"Mark your gear" . 1
Dog-heat exhaustion .1
—This column = % read + % scanned; £.'Read = person spent enough time looking at article
to have read it; i.ocanned= person spent only enough time looking at article to have
briefly scanned it.
Source: Sugarlands bulletin board before treatment questionnaire and unobtrusive
Table 16. Use of bulletin board articles after design change.
Unobtrusive Observation (N=686)
Oral interview (N=220)
% Recalled article
General park map
Health and safety
— This column = L read + % scanned; — Read = person spent enough time looking
at article to read it; ^/Scanned - person spent only enough time looking at
article to have briefly scanned it.
Source: Sugarlands bulletin board after treatment questionnaire and unobtrusive
The study has demonstrated that the visitors to GRSM are not greatly affected
by the media studied. A lot more messages are sent than are received. There is
significant room for improvement in the way the media are used and the way they
are marketed. All types of media studied have significant but unmet potential to
effectively communicate with the visitors. They have the capability of affecting
the behavior of a significant portion of the visiting public. All the media
applications studied need to be exposed to professional expertise to ensure that
their potential is met. The degree of sophistication necessary to maximize their
use cannot be expected to be found strictly within park staff.
There needs to be a cohesive and coherent communications strategy developed for
respect of visitor management and public relations. A communications plan should
be developed for all horizons of public contact, both inside and outside the park
and encompassing all media from television and radio to literature and signage.
The plan should run the gamut of management concerns, including visitor services,
ranger activities, maintenance, science, interpretation, and resources management.
The plan needs to balance the information priorities for managers and visitors,
which are clearly not the same. The most important principle in developing the
communications plan is to define target audiences and priority messages for them
and then to create clear images using the most appropriate media. For the in-park
visitor, keep in mind their total experience and how each message contact
contributes to or distracts from conveying the information needs of those
visitors. Effective communication is too often lost by information overload, poor
application of media, and poorly structured or uninteresting messages. To put it
simply, managers need to think more like visitors if they want to reach out and
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A GUIDE TO IMPROVING COMMUNICATIONS WITH PARK VISITORS
THE PARK NEWSPAPER
Role in Communications . The park newspaper is the primary vehicle available
to managers for conveying detailed information to visitors. No other medium
generated at the park level has as great a potential to affect behavior patterns.
It is the primary voice of the Superintendent in the park.
Principles of Application . Because the newspaper has the potential to play
such a pivotal role in communications to visitors, the design and distribution
strategy is most critical to realizing its maximum value. Such a strategy should
involve the following elements:
1. Set message priorities. The first and foremost principle driving the design
is to set priorities for messages to be conveyed. These messages should reflect
both manager and visitor perspectives, as discussed in the previous section. The
scope of relevant messages under consideration should be derived from all phases
of park operations. Although visitor services have traditionally been the focal
point, consideration should also be given to rangers, resources management,
maintenance, and science. A message's priority should be reflected by its place
in the newspaper layout.
2. Choose a format which best displays the nature of your priority messages.
The tabloid format (usually 11-1/2 x 14-1/2 inches) is easily departmentalized.
It assists in clear and coherent organization of contents. The individual pages
are easier to design. Tabloids can also exploit a center spread (Evans 1974).
A broadsheet format (14-1/2 x 23-1/2 inches) can carry more text without
continuing to another page. It can project a wide range of news at one time in
an obvious order of priority. It also allows bigger pictures and better graphics
(Evans 1974). This format might lend itself better if management wants
substantive articles on a variety of management issues.
3. Take maximum advantage of the front page. The front page is the most critical
design concern because it is the primary point of attention for the reader. The
highest priority messages should appear here. If a Superintendent wants to
communicate in depth with the visitor, this is his or her most effective forum.
The upper left-hand corner is the primary optical area. Fill it with an
attention getter. A picture is best, but the layout should not always be the
same. Next, place the main story, if it didn't go in the top left. Traditionally,
this goes in the top right. Arrange secondary stories on the page to lead down
to the lower right corner, following the reading diagonal. Finally, anchor the
lower left corner with a strong item; the beginning of a softer feature, a
secondary picture, or the like (Harvard Post 1978).
The signal-and-text front page is the classical modern front page, where a
selection of the items judged most important in the spot news category is signaled
by both headlines and positioning in a clear scale of priority and supported with
text. Items of less importance are placed inside. The poster front page puts
as many headlines as possible on the front page without supporting text. This
style displays as much as possible to attract reader interest. A summary index
combines posters and signal and text front page styles. It contains capsules of
news which are fully treated inside. It provides a useful summary for the busy
reader. This style is most appropriate for a larger paper covering many topics
4. Don't be afraid to use attention-getting headlines. Their purpose is to
distill the news. They must be specific. The editor must decide on the basic
point of the story before writing the headline (Evans 1974).
5. If you have plenty of space, a two-page spread has advantages. It allows the
clear display of complex events, schedules, or maps. Starting at the top left
corner of a two-page spread, the eye moves to the lower right corner on the
reading diagonal. In order to attract the eye to the copy not directly in that
line, the layout editor must position "magnets" in the form of headlines or other
display elements (Harvard Post 1978). The eye must not be drawn immediately into
center of the page. It is against "reading gravity" to go from the center to the
top of the page (Arnold 1981).
6. Select a masthead which clearly identifies the tabloid as the official park
newspaper. Fig. A-l illustrates the difficulty of picking out the official GRSM
park newspaper from a pile of tourist information newspapers and brochures. Can
you identify the park newspaper?
7. Aggressively market the paper. Get it in the hands of the visitors. This
is much easier in parks with entrance gates where visitors must stop. At GRSM,
it will require a variety of techniques to raise awareness of its availability.
8. Assess the text readability. The Fog index is a simple way to assess
readability. The following is taken from Van Dersal (1962).
To use the Fog index, count off 100 words in the material. Then figure the
average sentence length of the sample, stopping with the sentence ending nearest
the 100-word mark. Do this by dividing the number of words by the number of
sentences. Then figure the percentage of hard words. Hard words are those of
three syllables or more. Do not count capitalized words such as Paris or
President. Do not count words that have a third syllable when -ed or -es are
added to them (like "expected" or "refuses"). The index is figured in the
following way: In a 100-word sample, the number of hard words can be used
directly as the percentage. Add the percentage of hard words to the average
sentence length. Then multiply the sum by .4 to get the grade level at which the
sample is written.
In our example, we took the two articles on the front page of the summer
newspaper. In the first, "Just Listen," there were 106 words in five sentences
for an average sentence length of 21.1. There was one hard word. So, (21.1 +
1) x .4 = 8.8. The article was written on approximately a 9th grade level. The
second article, "Barns," had 103 words in five sentences for an average sentence
length of 20.6. There were 8 hard words. So, (20.6 + 8) x .4 = 11.4. The article
was written on approximately an 11th grade level. A study of big city newspapers
and wire services revealed these media to be written on approximately a 12th grade
level (Wilkens 1981). However, a study of big city newspapers and wire services
revealed these media to be written on approximately a 12th grade level (Wilkens
1981). However, a study of the Worcester (Mass.) Evening Gazette showed it to be
written on a 9th grade level, on average (Porter 1982).
Fig. A-l . Official Great Smoky Mountains National Park newspaper amid pile of
THE PARK RADIO
Role in Communications. The GRSM system of short range radio stations has
the potential to reach a greater percentage of park visitors (particularly
first-timers) than any other medium available to park management. This is
particularly true at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, since there are no
mandatory entrance stations from which to contact visitors as they enter the
park. The radio provides the means to penetrate the sanctity of the visitor's
private environment where most of the park visit is likely to take place — inside
the vehicle. Unlike the newspaper, the radio message can convey only a limited
quantity of information. The signal range is about one mile, and only major
messages are likely to be retained. Careful consideration of message content is
needed to achieve the greatest benefit from the radios within the context of the
entire communications strategy for the park visitor. The radio cannot be "all
things to all people." A diluted message is much less likely to be received and
Principles of Application . Several good publications are available
concerning production of radio commercials (Dygert 1938, Seehafer 1959, Murphy
1980). Certainly, the park radio message need not be hard sell, but the tricks
of the trade are most helpful in getting the message through. Probably the
greatest constraint of the park application is that the message runs continously,
so that most users will not start listening at the beginning of the message.
The following radio message produced for this study is used here to demonstrate
principles of radio advertising relevant to park radio messages:
You're now on the Cherokee Orchard Road. Soon, you'll see the homesites
of the mountain families who first settled here. Stop your car and use your
senses. Listen to a red squirrel chattering or a wood thrush singing. Feel
the cool air or the spray from a waterfall.
There are many places to s(;op here. Three of the most popular are the Bud
Ogle Farm, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and Grotto Falls. Make your
first stop the Bud Ogle Farm, just ahead on the right. Walk the trail there.
Explore a typical mountain farmstead and experience feelings or kinship with
these mountain farmers. This short trail takes you into a cool old-growth
forest with ghostlike remnants of the once might chestnut trees. It leads to
a secluded tub mill once powered by water tumbling from Mount LeConte.
Next, drive the five-mile Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This one-way road
begins halfway around the Cherokee Orchard Loop and ends in Gatlinburg. At
the trail entrance, pick up a guidebook that highlights what you will find
here. Stop at the Grotto Falls trailhead along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature
Trail. It's an easy 1-1/2 mile walk to a unique waterfall. Stroll along a
path shaded by giant virgin hemlocks. Walk behind a waterfall's curtain of
water without getting wet.
The Bud Ogle Farm, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and Grotto Falls are
only three of the many enjoyable stops you may make. Stop often at the farms
and mills of the early mountain people. Get out of your car. Use all your
senses to experience the magic of Cherokee Orchard and the Roaring Fork.
The following principles for developing radio messages in parks are
illustrated by the above message:
1. Establish a major theme. A central idea must be clearly defined. What main
thought do you want to leave with the audience? (Seehafer 1950). Example:
"Stop your car and use your senses."
2. Keep the dialogue simple and to the point. Stress a single big idea.
Eliminate any tongue-twisters, unnecessary multisyllabic words, and flowery
adjectives (Murphy 1980).
3. Establish an appropriate tempo and length. A typical range of speed is
120 to 135 words per minute. Maximum rate of speed should not exceed 135
words per minute (Seehafer 1959). Maximum length should not exceed two
minutes. A shorter period is better. Example: The message written for
this study contained 272 words, taking one minute, 55 seconds.
4. Anticipate what your audience wants to know. This is not difficult, since
they made a conscious effort to see out your message at a particular place
in the park. Example: Information on what to do in the vicinity of
Cherokee Orchard Road.
5. Start by getting the listener's attention. Lead with something useful for
him to know. Example: "You're now on the Cherokee Orchard Road." Zero in
on the target audience (Murphy 1980).
6. Secure the interest of the visitor (Seehafer 1959). Follow up the lead
attention grabber with additional points of interest. Example: "Soon you'll
see the homesites of the mountain families who first settled here."
7. Develop an appreciation of rhythmic prose. Translate "eye" pictures to
"ear" pictures (Dygert 1938). Example:
"Ghostlike remnants of ... chestnut trees"
"Listen to red squirrels chattering or wood thrushes singing"
"Water tumbling from Mount LeConte"
"Walk behind the . . . curtain of water"
8. Be specific. The audience is usually more impressed with specific facts
than with generalities (Seehafer 1959). Example: Three of the most
popular (places to stop) are ..."
9. Utilize repetition (Seehafer 1959, Murphy 1980). Example: Three references
to Ogle Farm, Roaring Fork Trail, and Grotto Falls.
10. Write for the individual (Seehafer 1959, Murphy 1980). Example: "You're
now on the Cherokee Orchard Road."
11. Appreciate mental limitations to listening. Present thoughts in small parcels
that can be readily apprehended. Example: "Walk the trail there."
12. Finish with a request for action (Seehafer 1959, Murphy 1980). Example:
"Get out of your car. Use all your senses..."
13. Finally, and most importantly, seek professional advice in writing copy and
have it professionally produced.
PARK BULLETIN BOARDS
Role in Communications. The often neglected bulletin board can be a powerful
communication tool. More visitors are likely to look at bulletin boards than to
read a newspaper or listen to a radio message. Locations are more widely
distributed throughout the park. They are usable 24 hours a day. Although not
often used in such a way, they have the potential for visitors to communicate with
each other via a message board.
The most common use of bulletin boards in national parks is at visitor centers
and campgrounds. They play a slightly different role in each setting. At visitor
centers, the bulletin board plays a supplementary role. Regulations are often
posted, along with information on health, safety, and emergency service which
should be available 24 hours a day. Activity schedules, suggestions for good
citizenship, and resource information are also frequently included. A very useful
function not usually addressed is to display the key publications available in
the visitor center which can best answer that perennial question, "What's the best
way to see the park in a limited amount of time?" In the campgrounds, the
bulletin boards are often the primary means of communication. Regulations are
posted, along with a schedule of local interpretive programs and messages on
health, safety, emergency services, and good citizenship.
Principles of Application . It is most difficult to isolate a few key
principles which will enhance the communicative effectiveness of bulletin boards
under all circumstances. This is primarily due to their diverse applications in
a park setting and to the large quantity of material that managers want to include
in the small space available. Having offered this caveat, a list of design
principles follows. Organized into three major categories, their effectiveness
is dependent upon a design rationale based on a clear set of message priorities.
Principles of design focus attention. If your intended use of the space lacks
focus, the design application will serve little purpose.
1. Do not crowd too much material into one space (Randall and Haines 1961).
2. Avoid being overly ornate, which involves decoration without reason.
Material should be presented with emphasis on organization, color, and
texture, and not on "cuteness" (Randall and Haines 1961).
3. Surrounding the displays with empty space secures attention and conveys the
message more effectively (Randall and Haines 1961).
4. Avoid distracting patchy subject headings. Relate labels. Place
informational captions in limited areas or units inside the display area, not
at the edges (Randall and Haines 1961).
5. Dominance of similar shapes, lines, and space helps to maintain a family
relationship. Disunity is distracting (Randall and Haines 1961).
6. Utilize low space for children (Machlis 1974).
A well-organized board design should generate a feeling of systematic movement
from one point to another (Horn 1962). Some examples follow:
a. Informal balance creates more interest than formal balance (Randall and
i , — ~
r— i i
Informal arrangement of materials tends to stimulate, excite, and raise
interest. The strictly formal arrangement of a bulletin board is
monotonous, restful, ineffective (Horn 1962).
c. Have a maximum of three focal points per bulletin board (Gibert 1983)
The natural movement of the eye is a reverse six. Therefore, all corner
information should draw the eye back into the body area. If edge photos
face outward, the eye bleeds off the surface. Though the corner spots are
important for eye movement, they are the least effective spots for verbal
messages. They are weak communications areas (Gibert 1983).
Line up units within a cluster by matching edges or imaginary lines.
Centering is not effective (Gibert 1983). Modular design layout allows
for dividing subjects into broad headings (Machlis 1974).
1. To focus attention on any important item, set it apart with isolating space
or contrasts in color, texture, or values (Randall and Haines 1961).
2. Utilize cartoons to convey difficult messsages. An example demonstrating the
proper method of dealing with a visitor-bear interaction is displayed in
3. Use three-dimensional objects.
4. Point out an important area with a directional device such as an arrow or
line (Randall and Haines 1961).
5. Choose a catchy caption (Randall and Haines 1961).
6. Control eye movement with lines (Horn 1961):
Diagonal lines for action
Zig-zag lines for excitement
Slow-moving, undulating curves for a lazy feeling (Horn 1962)
Fig. A-2. Cartoon illustrating appropriate and inappropriate visitor behavior
7. A limited use of two or three different kinds of display material usually
leads to more successful design (Horn 1962).
8. By introducing unusual, uninteresting, largely abstract shapes behind static
visual material, viewer attention can be tremendously increased. An unusual
shape behind one illustration leads the eye into the display, but too many
unusual shapes cause confusion. Similar or related shapes tend to unify.
Angles and triangles are fast moving. Circles spin (Horn 1962).
9. Shape may be used to point into the illustration or to lead the eye from it
to another part of the design (Horn 1962).
10. Adding a contrasting border or edge line defines the space and draws the eye
inward to the message. Don't overuse this technique, as it will make the
space seem choppy, and the reader will only see those doubly highlit messages
Nat ' 1 Park
To be effective, the use of color in bulletin board design must be carefully
related to the visual material to be displayed. Color should reflect the theme.
The colors used in a design should neither overpower the material or display nor
fight with it. The whole color scheme should complement the idea being presented
1. To find good color combinations, choose colors that are neighbors on the
color wheel (Fig. 5). Neutral colors can be used with any combination
2. With colorful print backgrounds, use no more than two colors (red on green,
blue on orange), except to highlight a special notice temporarily (Gibert
3. Dark and light colors in combination give the best contrast (Minor 1978).
4. Dark colors next to each other are not recommended (Minor 1978).
5. White letters next to a dark background are highly eligible (Minor 1978).
6. Using one dominant color may prove effective. A good rule to follow is "the
smaller the area, the brighter the color should be" (Minor 1978).
7. Color combinations also influence legibility. Here are some suggestions for
good legibility: black on yellow, brown on white, green on white, blue on
white, black on white, yellow on black, white on red, white on green, red on
yellow (Minn 1978).
8. No color works alone; color changes in the neighborhood of another color
(Randall and Haines 1961).
9. Unusual color friendships or combinations attract attention (orange and pink)
(Randall and Haines 1961).
10. Patterns of colors lead the eye from area to area, giving the sensation of
movement (Randall and Haines 1961).
Fig. A-3. The Color Wheel
Table A- l. GRSM populations sampled for park communications study
Messages to convey
Questionnaire/ Number of
Managers + Parkwide
Users of Cher
Users of Cherokee
TOTAL = 3650
Table A-2. Sampling periods for GRSM park communications study. -
( interview) — '
Bulletin board —
4 4 5
2 2 2
3 4 1
Each sampling period was 3 hours
M = Morning
A = Afternoon
E = Evening
— Bulletin board & radio messages were changed for testing in mid-July 1983.
Table A-3. Subject content of radio station messages in GRSM,
Number of sentences (7 of all sentences)
o — i
— 1 Uj
UJ ^— ■
Regulations 1(6) 11(33) 3(12) 9(31) 4(16) 3(12) 4(13)
Road directions 2(12) 2(8) 1(4)
Facilities (Ranger 2(14) 5(12)
Natural and cultural 12(70) 16(55) 15(60) 21(91) 7(50) 4(14) 3(12) 7(28) 10(33)
Campground information 5(17) 3(12) 5(20) 6(20)
Interpretive schedule 1(6) 2(7) 4(16) 2(8) 2(7)
Location of trails 1(3) 4(16) 1(4) 4(28) 4(14) 3(12) 2(8) 2(7)
Safety 1(4) 1(7) 1(3) 1(4) 4(16) 4(13)
Where to go for more 2(7) 1(4) 1(4) 1(3)
Other 1(6) 1(3) 2(7) 3(12) 1(4) 1(3)
Total # sentences
Total # words
Table A-3 (cont.)
Number of sentences (% of all sentences)
Natural and cultural
Location of trails
Where to go for more
Total # sentences
Total # words
d) i— i
9(38) 4(20) 27(96) 7(23) 5(17) 5(16) 4(14) 4(33)
3(10) 7(24) 5(16)
2(7) 2(6) K8)
1(3) 1(3) 2(6) 1(4)
2(6) 1(3) 3(10) 5(18) 1(8)
4(13) 1(3) 1(3) 2(7)
24 20 28 31 29 31 28 12
395 303 372 501 430 471 473 232
Table A-4. Use of bulletin boards by location,
Location % of Total Use —
Cades Cove 24
Abrams Creek 6
Clingmans Dome 4
Balsam Mountain 2
Look Rock 1
Deep Creek 1
Big Creek 1
— Total does not equal 100% due to rounding
Source: 1983 General Media questionnaire
As the Nation's
Department of the In
our nationally owned
This includes foster
water resources, pro
ing the environment
parks and historical
ment of life through
assesses our energy
assure that their de
al 1 our people. The
bi 1 i ty for American
people who 1 i ve in i
terior has responsib
public lands and na
ing the wisest use o
tecting our fish and
and cultural value o
places, and providi
and mineral resource
velopment is in the
Department also has
Indian reservation c
sland territories un
ion agency, the
i 1 i ty for most of
f our land and
f our national
ng for the enjoy-
s and works to
best interests of
a major responsi-
ommunities and for
der U.S. admini-
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
SCIENCE PUBLICATIONS OFFICE
75 SPRING ST., S.W.
ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30303
POSTAGE AND FEES PAID
U. S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
PENALTY FOR PRIVATE USE $300